Environment Canterbury has today released a report commissioned by the five agencies with statutory responsibility for land and water management in the iconic Mackenzie Basin.
The Mackenzie Basin – Opportunities for Agency Alignment review identifies the numerous opportunities and challenges facing agencies and the community in the future management of the Mackenzie.
Environment Canterbury Chief Executive Bill Bayfield said the regional council, the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and the Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils were seeking ways to better work together for the benefit of the Basin, its unique environment and the people who live there.
“There has been substantial change in the Basin,” Mr Bayfield said. “Not everyone is happy with it. Changes in natural character, landscape, biodiversity and biosecurity, and water quality are all issues, as are the ability to develop businesses and the rules and consent framework.”
With these challenges in mind, the five agencies commissioned a project to identify opportunities for better alignment between them.
Working together to improve environmental outcomes
“The purpose is improved agency effectiveness and strategic focus, better environmental outcomes and improved capacity to meet the needs and interests of the Basin’s communities, stakeholders and rūnanga,” Mr Bayfield said.
“At meetings today and tomorrow we are sharing the contents of the report, seeking views on prioritising its recommendations and developing an understanding about which recommendations people and organisations would like to be involved in. We look forward to hearing the community’s views so we can improve the way agencies work together in the Mackenzie Basin.”
Land Information New Zealand Chief Executive Andrew Crisp said the review was an important document that identified areas of common ground for agencies and the community to work more closely.
“We recognise that pastoral agriculture and the iconic, wide open landscapes of the Mackenzie are an important part of our national identity and heritage, in the same way as our unique flora and fauna are important too.
“This is why LINZ has already been working more closely with DOC to better understand the ecological and landscape values when making decisions about Crown lands. The report provides an opportunity for us to take a broader, more coordinated approach to decision-making and management, working more collaboratively with the councils and community.”
Department of Conservation Director-General Lou Sanson said the Mackenzie Basin stood out nationally for its rare and globally significant dryland ecosystems, and that it was committed to working with LINZ and others to conserve its values.
Keeping the environment in balance
“The vision for the Basin has always included a balance of agriculture, tourism and conservation. In recent years we’ve seen significant advancements in tourism and agriculture while conservation protection has struggled to keep up. This report allows us to take a streamlined approach in our work to address this.”
Waitaki District Council Planning Manager Hamish Barrell said that within the Waitaki District, the communities of Omarama, Otematata and Ohau had always regarded their area’s conservation values as special.
“With the expansion of tourism and other development pressures including land conversion, Waitaki District Council has committed to re-thinking the balance between farming, tourism, new housing proposals and conservation through its District Plan Review,” he said.
“We share the protection of this special area with Mackenzie District and understand that long-term success on private land necessitates not only protection measures within the District Plan but also comprehensive pest control measures and incentives to facilitate the voluntary protection of indigenous biodiversity.
“We see this process as the continuation of co-operation with other stakeholders in the area including the Mackenzie Trust, Government agencies, Environment Canterbury, the local community and iwi that began with the Mackenzie Agreement in 2013.
“While we await feedback on the report’s contents, we acknowledge its release is timely to help communities start engaging with the Waitaki District Plan. The District Plan review will not only affect Omarama, Otematata and Ohau communities but also areas where Council must also give expression to the regional policies of the Otago Regional Council,” Mr Barrell said.
Mackenzie District Council Chief Executive Suzette van Aswegen said the report presented an exciting opportunity for the five agencies moving forward collectively. “It will enable more holistic and integrated management of the economic, cultural and natural resources dear to the Basin’s community, stakeholders and rūnanga,” she said.
“The Mackenzie District Council and other agencies understand the differing needs and interests of the Basin’s communities, rūnanga and the stakeholders from all corners of New Zealand due to its nationally significant values. We are committed to working together to achieve common goals and outcomes in consultation with the community, stakeholders and rūnanga,” Ms van Aswegen said.
Frequently asked questions
1. Who commissioned the report and why?
Environment Canterbury, the Department of Conservation, Land Information New Zealand and the Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils commissioned the report (see question 8 for their roles). They were seeking ways to better work together for the benefit of the Basin, its unique environment and the people who live there.
2. What were they looking for?
The five agencies said they were particularly looking for:
- A clear statement about the ongoing relevance of the Vision for Land Use in the Basin as articulated in the Mackenzie Agreement
- A stocktake of the various legislative and regulatory functions (with associated policies and rules) held by Land Information New Zealand, the Department of Conservation, Environment Canterbury and the Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils – and how these could better contribute to the Mackenzie Agreement’s vision
- Identification of appropriate areas with intensification potential
- A shared understanding of what a ‘Drylands Heritage Area’ could be, and how each agency’s functions could contribute to its development
- A more effective interface between legislation, particularly the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 and the Resource Management Act 1991, noting that solutions could exist in policy and operational contexts as well as through alignment of current work programmes
- A ‘better public services’ approach to working in situations with jurisdictional overlap.
3. What area does the report cover?
*Light shaded area.
4. Who prepared the report?
It was prepared by independent consultants John Hutchings from public policy consulting firm HenleyHutchings in partnership with ex-government department CEO and Visiting Research Associate at Lincoln University Dr Hugh Logan.
5. What matters did they take into account?
Agency efficiency and effectiveness (including Agency best public sector practice, which includes Agency alignment): Biosecurity threats managed through collaborative action; Active management of tourism pressures / optimised benefits; Active land management to restore, maintain and protect biodiversity and landscape values; Pastoral productivity and profitability; Prosperous and sustainable communities.
6. What actions did they recommend?
Twenty-five actions are recommended, in three categories:
- How the five agencies can work together either collectively or in groups;
- How the agencies work with others;
- Larger policy and/or process challenges.
7. How does the report suggest the recommended actions can be addressed?
It suggests the first two categories above can be addressed by the agencies themselves either collectively or individually. The third category comprises four important actions with direct interface with the Mackenzie community and other interested parties:
- Working closely with the Mackenzie Trust to help it be a successful community initiative
- Progressing a Mackenzie Dry-lands Natural Heritage Area, with an important pre-condition of completing and implementing a Crown Strategy for the future of tenure review and lease-holder discretionary consents to be applied in the Basin
- Deciding about the desired form and extent of spatial planning for the Basin
- Supporting the Waitaki District Plan review with the objective of aligning it with the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan and the Mackenzie District Plan.
8. What are the next steps? How does the community get involved?
The agencies are engaging with the Mackenzie community, Ngāi Tahu, and Environmental NGOs to share the contents of the report, seek views on prioritising the recommendations and understand which recommendations people/organisations would like to be involved in taking forward.
The agencies will then work together to assess the feasibility, benefits, outcomes and implications of resourcing, in order to start implementing the report’s recommendations.
9. Who does what in the Mackenzie Basin?
Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) is responsible for management and stewardship of Crown land and lake and river beds and oversees high country Crown pastoral leases. The Commissioner of Crown Lands (an independent statutory position within LINZ) administers this land on behalf of the Crown. LINZ works closely with the Department of Conservation, local government, and other authorities to make decisions on effective management and use of Crown land.
The Department of Conservation (DOC) is accountable for the stewardship and management of public conservation lands in the Mackenzie Basin. DOC is also responsible for the protection of the Basin’s unique and threatened biodiversity, as well as its expansive iconic landscape, and historic heritage. DOC also operates a captive breeding programme for the recovery of New Zealand’s most threatened wading bird, the kaki, found only in the Mackenzie Basin. While many of the Mackenzie’s protected areas are high altitude mountain lands, a large number of important species and habitats exist on land stewarded by others. DOC works with many other agencies, Ngāi Tahu, and other partners to achieve conservation protection across boundaries, both on and off public conservation lands.
Environment Canterbury is responsible for functions under the Resource Management Act and the Biosecurity Act. Under the Biosecurity Act, it provides regional leadership (MPI provides national leadership) in preventing, reducing or eliminating adverse effects from harmful organisms (pest management). Under the RMA, Environment Canterbury is responsible for a number of functions (see pp 15–16 of the report), for which it has developed the Canterbury Water Management Strategy, the Canterbury Regional Policy Statement, the Canterbury Land & Water Plan (Plan Change 5 of which is of high relevance to the Mackenzie Basin), and water allocation.
The Mackenzie and Waitaki District Councils are responsible for the protection of outstanding features and landscapes, maintenance of (terrestrial) indigenous biological diversity and enhancement of public access along lakes and rivers. The particular functions for which they are responsible under the RMA are on pages 17–18 of the report. The Mackenzie District Plan is the main instrument through which these functions are carried out in the northern part, and the Waitaki District Plan in the southern part.